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Dongo conflict

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Dongo conflict

The location of Dongo within the Democratic Republic of the Congo
The location of Dongo within the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Dongo
The location of Dongo within the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The Dongo conflict was an armed conflict centered in Dongo, on the left bank of the Ubangi River in the Kungu territory of Sud-Ubangi District, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Fighting started in late October 2009 as a conflict between members of two communities over access to fishing ponds: the villages (Enyele and Monzaya) are of the same tribe (the Lobalas). By 22 December 2009, more than 168,000 people had fled their homes, many to the neighbouring Republic of the Congo.

Violence

Initial attacks

According to Congolese government spokesman Lambert Mende, a certain Edo Bokoto, who had been suspended from his post of sector chief, mobilized about 10 men from his community who wanted to take control of fish ponds which belong to people from Enyele and Monzaya villages. They started to attack people from outside their community and seven policemen who intervened in the fighting were killed.[1] The Lobalas of Enyele attacked those of Monzaya.[2] By 5 November 2009 at least 16,000 civilians had fled to the neighbouring Republic of the Congo (ROC) and Dongo had become a ghost town.[1]

Escalation

Further to the south, in Saba-Saba and in the Bomboma area, new fighting started on 17 November and the residents and the refugees from Dongo had to flee.[3] The refugees include members of the DRC's navy, which patrols the Ubangi River. They had to flee with their families because they had neither weapons nor ammunition to protect themselves.[4] More clashes occurred in the village of Buburo, which was attacked on 20 November. Although the inhabitants had already fled, this didn't stop the attackers from destroying the houses there, including the UNHCR offices, which had earlier evacuated its staff. By 30 November 2009 more than 70,000 people had been displaced. About half of the displaced remained inside DRC, taking temporary shelter in locations such as Kungu, Bokonzi, Bomboma and Bonzene. The rest of the displaced crossed the Ubangi River into ROC.[5]

By this point, the violence had become a full-scale insurgency by an alliance calling themselves the "Resistance Patriots of Dongo" (Patriotes-Résistants de Dongo). The group is said to be led by an animist priest called Udjani, who claims to have a magical sword that can poison people and pass its powers to the curved machetes wielded by many of his followers. Udjani's followers apparently include former members of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo, led by Jean-Pierre Bemba, which fought the Congolese government during the Second Congo War (1998–2003). Udjani’s supporters patrolled the Ubangi river, shooting at barges filled with people trying to escape. [6] By 10 December the conflict had left 100 dead and forced 115,000 people to flee their homes, two thirds of them into the Republic of the Congo, according to the UNHCR.[7]

The United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC) rushed peacekeeping troops to Dongo in an effort to protect the local population.[2] A MONUC helicopter that was restocking the 20 troops stationed there fell under gunfire from armed men. The helicopter crew, all of Russian nationality, facilitated the evacuation of 25 people, including 5 injured people (including the helicopter pilot), who were brought to Brazzaville for emergency medical treatment.[8]

Sources in Kinshasa reported that in mid-November DRC President Joseph Kabila secretly airlifted a battalion of Rwandan Defense Forces (RDF) across Congo to put down the small rebellion. The operation involved multiple flights in November and was supported by the United Nations Observes Mission in Congo (MONUC) and the United States Africa Command. The RDF forces, moved to Congo from Rwanda exclusively for the operation, were uniformed as FARDC troops. Pitched battles involving RDF occurred in past weeks on 22–24 and 26–28 November in the Dongo region. Along with RDF regulars, MONUC troops have been fighting alongside Tutsi Rwandan soldiers infiltrated by Rwanda, with the Kabila government's support, into the national army, the Armed Forces of the DRC (FARDC). President Kabila reportedly asked Central African Republic (C.A.R.) president François Bozizé to intervene and flank the resistance forces through the remote frontier town of Zongo, DRC, also in Sud-Ubangi Province, across the border from Bangui, the C.A.R. capital.

Recapture of Dongo

The Congolese army (FARDC) had recaptured the town of Dongo on 13 December. According to the Congolese press among the rebels who had captured several towns in the area were former soldiers of the Congolese army, deserters, and former members of the Zairean army who had sought refuge in ROC.[6][9]

At the weekly MONUC press conference of 16 December 2009, it was announced by MONUC spokesperson Madnodje Mounoubai that the first MONUC peacekeeping troops were deployed in Dongo, where a temporary operational basis is functional, as well as in nearby Bozene. The 500 MONUC troops will come from the Ghanaian, Tunisian and Egyptian contingents as well as troops from the Guatemalan Special Forces. Military equipment such as armored personnel carriers, transport and combat helicopters will also be at their disposal to support their mission.[10]

Refugee crisis

The crisis in Dongo led to an exodus of the civilian population, first due to the advance of the rebels and then due to the counter-attacks of the army. Humanitarian agencies were facing major logistical obstacles since the entire refugee population was spread across an area of 500 km2 along the banks of the Ubangi River. With its local staff, the UNHCR has supported the creation of nine clinics around the places with the highest concentration of refugees, where there is a greater need for medicines and medical staff. There are also mobile medical centers for remote areas. Humanitarian agencies have also installed six large water tanks with a total capacity of 60,000 litres near Bétou in the northern Republic of Congo, about 40 kilometres (25 mi) north of Dongo.[11] By 22 December, the number of refugees was estimated to be 168,000.[6]

References

  1. ^ a b DRC: Fish war prompts thousands to flee, Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), 5 November 2009 .
  2. ^ a b Equateur: New interdisciplinary MONUC mission in Dongo, MONUC, 24 November 2009 .
  3. ^ DRC:70000 Flee Violence In North-West of the Country, Médecins Sans Frontières Australia, 1 December 2009 .
  4. ^ DRC-Congo: New wave of refugees flees fresh fighting, Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), 20 November 2009 .
  5. ^ DRC-ROC: More than 70,000 displaced by violence in Equateur, Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), 30 November 2009 .
  6. ^ a b c Thousands Flee Northern Congo Insurgency Inspired by Mystic, Bloomberg, 22 December 2009 .
  7. ^ Aid effort 'not enough' for DRC refugees, Agence France Presse, 10 December 2009 .
  8. ^ Alan Doss meets the Russian crew of a MONUC helicopter attacked in Dongo, MONUC, 12 December 2009 .
  9. ^ DR Congo's armed forces enter troubled Dongo area, Xinhua, 15 December 2009 .
  10. ^ Equateur: An extra 500 MONUC troops being deployed to Dongo, MONUC, 16 December 2009 .
  11. ^ DR Congo: Refugees flee despite army advances, Spero News, 17 December 2009 .

External links

  • Armed group claims firing at UN chopper in DRC (Mail & Guardian, 27 November)
  • DR Congo: After Dongo violence, 90,000 refugees and displaced (Missionary International Service News Agency (MISNA), 2 December)
  • What's going on in Dongo? (Congo Siasa, 10 December)
  • DR.Congo troops take back town from tribal forces: govt (Agence France Presse, 14 December)
  • Congo army retakes stronghold of western uprising (Reuters, 15 December)
  • RDC-Congo-Brazzaville : une mission parlementaire conjointe attendue à Likouala et à Dongo (Radio Okapi, 21 December)
  • Dongo : Un bataillon de la PIR décimé? (Congo Indépendent, 23 December)
  • Alliance de Patriotes pour la Refondation du Congo (French)
  • Press Release (20 December)

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